NEW ORLEANS HORNETS v SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Prediction: 4-2 SPURS
This was a 2nd round series I had predicted and had a lot of people laugh at me and tell me that I was wrong on both picks. Well, I got them both right :p The Hornets and Spurs both handily beat their rivals and now meet in the 2nd round of the NBA Playoffs. Their regular season record is EVEN, with both teams winning in the home court of the other. Each of the 2 wins for both teams have also been by over 10 points. So this series is going to be another good one, and I see no blowouts here for any of the games amidst the over 10 point history.
The most anticipated matchup in this series is definitely going to be Chris Paul against Tony Parker. Two young superstar point guards going at it, matching up with the same speed, is going to be pretty darn exciting to watch! Duncan and Parker have been the lethal combination for the Spurs against the Hornets, while Paul and West have been the same for the Spurs.
The key in this series is going to be how well Peja can get away from Bruce Bowen, and how Manu plays against the Hornets D. Every time Peja plays well, the Hornets beat the Spurs. Manu scored 30 in their last matchup and I don’t see anyone in the Hornets lineup who can guard him. So this will be a very interesting series to watch as the playoffs bring out the best in these two teams. A fact very evident in their first round dominance against their rivals.
Hornets First Round:
New Orleans proved too much for Dallas as Paul ran circles around Kidd and the Mavs en route to a very convincing 4-1 series win. David West was a huge factor hitting a ton of midrange jumpers and post moves to close every Mav run that came their way. Peja did his thing with his timely outside bombs, while Chandler controlled the boards inside. The big surprise? Well, not really, as it was clear to me that this guy would make his mark in the playoffs for the Hornets. Jannero Pargo came in and stepped it up! He was the spark off the bench and no one could stop him as he went on a scoring binge that capped off a 30 point career-playoff high performance! The trend should continue in the 2nd round with Pargo and Bonzi playing off each other in trying to bring down the defending champs.
Spurs First Round:
As expected, Tony Parker totally destroyed Steve Nash. I don’t even recall a single decent game from the ex-MVP holder, as he was held in check throughout the entire series. Did they miss Shawn Marion? Oh hell yeah they did! And that move to bring Shaq in turned out to be a real bad move now, as he missed a ton of free throws in each and every single game, none more costly than the ones in Game 5 as they practically gave the game away to the Spurs.
Tony Parker was unbelievable, and no one could stop him. Duncan was his old reliable self and did a lot of damage off post moves, drawing fouls, grabbing a lot of boards, blocking shots, and most importantly, making his free throws. Manu was on and off but made the biggest play in Game 1 of the series by hitting the game winning layup. Bowen is still the pest that he is, and Kurt Thomas is proving to be a gem of a center yet again.
POINT GUARD: CHRIS PAUL v TONY PARKER
How great is this going to be? Two of the very best young point guards in the league go head-to-head! Who has the advantage? It’s a pretty close call, but it will be going to CP3.
Chris Paul is the number one point guard in the game today, bar none. He made it pretty clear after dismantling the Mav defense inside and out. There was no stopping CP3 as he sent their rivals reeling and destroyed them with penetration, dishes, and the occasional three. What’s more, he had his first career triple double of the playoffs in the last game that eliminated Dirk’s team from this year’s playoffs.
I could say the exact same thing for Tony Parker. Tony showed the world how Nash and the anyone from the Suns team couldn’t guard him. With unnerving will to penetrate and score, Parker made it a nightmare for Phoenix as they were burned game after game after game. Parker just scored at will. And just like CP3, the other team had no solution for him, which is why they are now packing their bags and going home for a long vacation. Parker’s speed and much improved outside shooting has practically made him un-guardable.
ADVANTAGE: HORNETS by a hair
SHOOTING GUARD: MORRIS PETERSON v MANU GINOBILI
I still don’t know why Byron Scott has Mo Pete in the starting lineup, but I’m pretty sure that Bonzi is going to have a good run against the Spurs. Wells has always played exceptional against San Antonio, and he is the key to the Hornets moving on to the next round. If Mo Pete can’t be effective, just like he was against the Mavs, he can kiss his starting job goodbye, and maybe even the next round. Byron Scott better wake up now and prove why he is the coach of the year.
Manu is going to be a nightmare for the Hornets to guard. After scoring 30 points in their last game, New Orleans better have a good game plan, as Manu brings it all in the playoffs. If they cannot stop Ginobili’s penetration and he gets hot, it’s going to be a very short series for the Hornets. It’s really that simple
SMALL FORWARD: PEJA STOJAKOVIC v BRUCE BOWEN
Given that the point guards cancel each other out, and David West and Tim Duncan do the same, the real key to the Hornets getting to the 3rd round is how well Peja plays. Bonzi may be the other key to their success, but if Peja’s bombs don’t go in, the Hornets may be in very big trouble. Stojakovic has had a long history of choking in the playoffs in Sacramento, and if memory serves me right, he has choked against both the Spurs and Lakers in pressure situations. Having that on your shoulder may be one thing, but having Bruce Bowen breathe down your neck is another. So this matchup will be very interesting to watch.
Bowen is looking pretty old after seeing a few of the games against the Suns. Udoka seems like the successor to the Bowen line of defense. Making life miserable for shooters is what has kept Bowen in this league for this long. He has always made a living by getting the goat of the best shooters in the league, like Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant. In this series, I’m looking at Bowen starting off guarding Peja, then Udoka will follow, and in the 4th, I see Bowen doing a job on Chris Paul. And if he can do that successfully, it’s going to be a pretty quick series. Then again, it’s almost impossible to guard CP3, so let’s see how Bowen does.
POWER FORWARD: DAVID WEST v TIM DUNCAN
Everyone now knows who David West is, especially the Dallas Mavericks. As much as CP3 demolished Jason Kidd, West was the big gun shooting down Dallas when crunch time came along. Hitting shot after shot, his midrange game is proving to be quite an asset in the playoffs. Quietly scoring 25 points and up, West’s game is very polished and he fears no one. He matched up with Dirk very well and went head-to-head with him. I don’t see any difference here and he can guard Tim Duncan too. If West can keep his composure and hit those midrange shots, it will cause a ton of problems for the Spurs.
It’s always surprising to see how Tim Duncan always happens to show up in the playoffs. He can play a terrible regular season, but when it matters, he is going to deliver. After playing an awesome series against Phoenix, Duncan looks to lead the Spurs to the next round. It will be a very interesting matchup to see if Duncan goes up against West on defense, and vice versa. If this happens, someone is going to get in foul trouble, and whoever does, will be at a severe disadvantage. Duncan’s post moves are still unbelievably effective, but so are West’s. But with Tim’s much improved free throw shooting, it will be a hard task for the Hornets big men to keep him in check.
ADVANTAGE: SPURS by a hair
CENTER: TYSON CHANDLER v KURT THOMAS
Chandler needs to play big in this series. As much as Tyson is a pure rebounder, he needs to score to help his team out in this series. He needs to demand the ball and try to post up. This draws attention to him and frees up shooters on the outside. Chandler’s value is better seen when he is not on court, as Hilton Armstrong is his reliever. He has never been in foul trouble in any of the 4 games these 2 teams have played, but I see that he will be in this series. The key is for him to play smart and not commit reach in fouls like he always does when he fails to get the ball. If he can keep himself in check, the Hornets should be okay.
You’d never think Kurt Thomas would be a factor in the playoffs, but I always have had a very high regard for his basketball IQ. One of the smartest moves the Spurs made this season was to bring in Thomas as Tim’s backup. Oberto may be there, and it could be a switch depending on matchups, but I see Kurt playing decent minutes and making the most of it again. It will be great to see him play well in this series and control the boards off of Chandler’s hands and bait him into foul trouble. If he gets to do that, he has done his job very well.
BENCH: Michael Finley/Ime Udoka v Jannero Pargo/Bonzi Wells
It’s going to be one heck of a battle. I am seeing Bonzi Wells playing a huge role off the Hornets bench and creating huge matchup problems for the Spurs. He has played very well against San Antonio across the years and if he can do it in this series, this will go 7 games. No one in the Spurs team can guard Bonzi, so I hope Byron Scott knows the history and plays him over Mo Pete. Pargo will again come off the bench and spark the Hornets, but I doubt he will go for 30 again, or even get to 20 points against the Spurs D. It’s going to be very entertaining to see how offense off the Hornets bench will fare against the very tough playoff defense of the Spurs.
So who is it going to be for the Spurs? I think Finley and Udoka will play a huge part of the Spurs success against this Hornets squad. Udoka provides great defense and pretty good offense also, something Bowen lacks. And if ever Bowen does tire out, Udoka should be able to provide ample D for the likes of Pargo and Paul if necessary. But the real key for the Spurs is how well Michael Finley shoots the ball. Just like Peja, the key to the Spurs success in the series is if their outside shooting clicks. If Finley can light it up, it will open up the post game for Duncan and once both of those things are in the mix, this series will be over. Then again, that is a big IF, as Finley has struggled all season long.